Opportunities Are Abundant In The Bruins System For Anders Bjork

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(Photo Credit: Brian Babineau: NHL/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

One of the most popular names in training camp in recent weeks has been Anders Bjork. Thanks in large part to an impressive showing at the prospects challenge, Bjork has caught the eyes of many. His dynamic skill set and comfortability are still ever so present after two shoulder surgeries in as many years.

Bjork has seen time with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle most recently, but there are still other options for him.

On the wing with Jack Studnicka in Providence

Whether it’s on the left-wing or the right, if Bjork and Studnicka both end up down in Providence to start the season, I would love to see what they could do together. Bjork and Studnicka are the two most dynamic forwards in the system and could seriously light it up together. The other winger could be any of a number of players, perhaps someone like Jakub Lauko, Ryan Fitzgerald, Cameron Hughes, or Oskar Steen.

If the coaching staff decides that playing in the AHL is best for Bjork to start, it would be best to equip him with skilled linemates such as the players listed above.

First-line right-wing

Despite not lighting it up on the scoresheet, it’s fair to say that Bjork has looked the most comfortable on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Playing with two well-established veterans allows Bjork to learn and if he puts himself in the right spots to generate chances, score as well.

In time with the top line this past year, Heinen also looked pretty confident on the first line right-wing. With Bjork’s career off to a turbulent start with injuries, playing with two established veterans that he can learn from and potentially produce at a high-level with could be just what Bjork needs to ease into becoming a full-time NHL player.

Second-line right-wing 

This one isn’t very likely in my eyes, but it’s still possible. The way I see it, the second-line right wing job is Karson Kuhlman’s to lose. Alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci last season, Kuhlman completed a second line that generated 7.00 GF/60 last season. That’s insane. His speed and forechecking ability also adds a lot to that line and makes the line difficult to deal with in the offensive zone.

The speed of DeBrusk and Bjork on Krejci’s wings is definitely worth exploring at some point though. It just probably won’t be right away to start the 2019-2020 season.

Third-line left-wing

I think this is where Bjork will land to start the season. Bjork has been playing on Coyle’s left with Heinen on the right for the past week in practice, as well as last night against the Philadelphia Flyers. The three of them looked great together last night, consistently pushing the pace through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.

Not only did they pretty much dominate through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, but they also did a great job limiting the Flyers scoring chances.

31 shot attempts. 31! Anders Bjork was a menace to deal with last night. His smooth skating and offensive abilities could add an important element to the third line. Coyle was a tank last year, especially in the playoffs. His big body, prowess in all three zones, and scoring abilities in a third-line role make him the ideal man for the job.

As the third-line center, Coyle established some serious chemistry with Heinen. The two looked very comfortable with each other again last night.

Where Heinen thrives is creating scoring chances for his linemates and limiting opponent scoring chances. He thrived in that area in a down year offensively for him last year. If Heinen can get back to around the 47-point mark he hit in his rookie season, do what he does best, and Bjork and Coyle can bring what they do best to the table, as previously mentioned, this has the potential to be a dominant third line.

Bjork spoke to Bruins reporter Eric Russo about Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen before last night’s preseason win for the Bruins over the Flyers.

Where Bjork lands is still to be determined over the next couple weeks, but there are certainly a lot of options for him. If he can stay healthy, he has high upside that is worth getting excited about.

Boston Bruins: Salary Cap Projections In Three Years

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

It has been a successful week for General Manager Don Sweeney and the rest of the Boston Bruins management staff. On Sunday, the Bruins re-signed RFA defenceman Charlie McAvoy to a three-year contract with an annual average salary (AAV) of $4.9 million and also managed to lock up the other RFA defender – Brandon Carlo – to a two-year contract worth $2.85 million per season.

Throughout the league, the Bruins are being praised for their “genius” work to re-sign both of these future franchise defensemen while keeping forward David Backes and not making any other trades to free up cap space and rightly so. I was one of the people who was convinced that Boston would be forced to ship out a body in order to make room for both players. Evidently, Sweeney knew he could sign both without making other adjustments and he proved it.

However, things might not seem so perfect after taking a further glance. In the lead-up to the signings, it was made clear that Charlie McAvoy wanted to stay in Boston for the long-term and it was clear that the organization felt the same way. In that case, many imagined that when the details of the contract would be released, it would lock up the 21-year-old for the next seven or even eight years.

Due to the fact that people assumed the length of McAvoy’s deal, it was expected for Carlo to have a shorter, bridge-type deal because of the lack of cap space available to spend on Carlo. In a perfect world, Boston would have traded David Backes and signed both Carlo and McAvoy to contracts with long terms to solidify the defensive core for years to come.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and in some cases, we have to be thankful and settle for what we do have. As we look ahead for the 2019-2020 NHL season, the Boston Bruins have a true chance to contend again for the Stanley Cup or at the very least, contend in the Eastern Conference. Regardless, it is good to keep an open mind on the future and the next half-decade for Boston could be a stressful one.

2020 Expiring Contracts:

Forwards:

  • F Charlie Coyle (UFA)
  • F Jake DeBrusk (RFA)
  • F Karson Kuhlman (RFA)
  • F Chris Wagner (UFA)
  • F Joakim Nordstrom (UFA)
  • F Brett Ritchie (RFA)
  • F Anders Bjork (RFA)
  • F Zach Senyshyn (RFA)
  • F Ryan Fitzgerald (RFA)
  • F Brendan Gaunce (RFA)
  • F Peter Cehlarik (RFA)

Defensemen:

  • D Torey Krug (UFA)
  • D Kevan Miller (UFA)
  • D Zdeno Chara (UFA)
  • D Matt Grzelcyk (RFA)
  • D Jakub Zboril (RFA)
  • D Wiley Sherman (RFA)
  • D Jeremy Lauzon (RFA)

Goaltenders:

  • G Jaroslav Halak (UFA)
  • G Daniel Vladar (RFA)
  • G Maxime Legacé (UFA)

If you thought that this past off-season was hectic and stressful, just wait for the stress a year from now. The Bruins will have big-name players such as Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Jaroslav Halak, and Charlie Coyle that will have an expiring contract. According to CapFriendly, the Bruins are projected to have $25,158,334 in available cap space for the 2020 offseason, so it is inevitable that players will have to be let go – whether it is in a trade or just leaving on July 1st.

However, there are a few players that I’d imagine are guaranteed to return to Boston – forward Jake DeBrusk, defenceman Matt Grzelcyk, forward Karson Kuhlman, forward Anders Bjork, defenceman Jeremy Lauzon, and forward Zach Senyshyn. The remaining players are up in the air and their performance and/or development in the 2019-20 campaign will prove their worth.

Sticking to NHL roster, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Zdeno Chara, Charlie Coyle, and Jaroslav Halak are the biggest pieces that are question marks for me. In regards to the captain, Zdeno Chara, his decision on whether or not he wants to continue playing hockey is still up in the air. When his current deal expires this July, he will be 43 years of age.

Kevan Miller has dealt with numerous injuries and with the rising defensive prospects, I don’t see him returning. Charlie Coyle was great in the playoffs last season, but a full year wearing the Spoked-B sweater will really show what he is worth contract-wise. Jaroslav Halak is a big piece, but same thing with Coyle, this season will show what he can demand in the negotiations. Finally, Torey Krug could be a player for trade bait, but he brings a high-level of play to Boston’s defense and it is likely that he returns.

For Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, and Brett Ritchie – I personally don’t see them re-signing with the organization mainly due to the plethora of talent in the AHL that Boston can use to fill those bottom-six roles.

2021 Expiring Contracts:

Forwards:

  • F David Krejci (UFA)
  • F David Backes (UFA)
  • F Danton Heinen (RFA)
  • F Sean Kuraly (UFA)
  • F Par Lindholm (UFA)
  • F Trent Frederic (RFA)
  • F Cameron Hughes (RFA)
  • F Anton Blidh (RFA)
  • F Paul Carey (UFA)

Defensemen:

  • D Brandon Carlo (RFA)
  • D Steven Kampfer (UFA)

Goaltenders:

  • G Tuukka Rask (UFA)

After the Bruins make some difficult decisions in the 2020 offseason, the 2021 offseason proves to be one of the biggest in a long time for the organization. Core players such as David Krejci, Brandon Carlo, and superstar goaltender Tuukka Rask have expiring deals. However, the Bruins will be free of $6 million due to David Backes’ contract and the likely departure of Steven Kampfer, Paul Carey, and Par Lindholm.

I’d imagine that Krejci and Rask take a decrease in pay when they negotiate a new deal, as both will be in their mid-30s at the end of the 2020-2021 season, (Krejci – 35, Rask – 34). That saved salary will likely be thrown right back into Brandon Carlo’s deal which will hopefully be a longer contract in comparison to the two-year deal that he recently agreed to.

It’ll also depend largely on the success of the young players like Danton Heinen, Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh, and Cameron Hughes – but I don’t see any of them earning a large deal with only Heinen in my eyes making more than $1.5 million.

2022 Expiring Contracts:

Forwards:

  • F Patrice Bergeron (UFA)
  • F Pavel Shen (RFA)
  • F Oskar Steen (RFA)
  • F Jakub Lauko (RFA)
  • F Jack Studnicka (RFA)

Defensemen:

  • D Charlie McAvoy (RFA)
  • D Urho Vaakanainen (RFA)
  • D Axel Andersson (RFA)

Goaltenders:

  • G Kyle Keyser (RFA)

The list takes a dramatic decrease in the number of players and that is a result of all the short-term deals or the longer deals that are nearing the conclusion. At this point, it is nearly impossible to predict the numbers and the results, especially because of all the restricted free-agents in this class. Everyone but Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy have something big to prove if they want that NHL contract. I expect everyone to sign in this free-agent class, but who really knows.

Another thing to note is that at this point, previous players on the list could be expiring this year too due to the possibility of one or two-year deals signed as well as free-agents and acquisitions in trades.

Players Extended Past 2022:

Forwards:

  • F Brad Marchand (2025-26)
  • F David Pastrnak (2023-24)

Defensemen:

  • D John Moore (2023-24)
  • D Connor Clifton (2023-24)

With only four players signed past 2022, the Boston Bruins franchise as we know it will be completely different. Retirements, departures and arrivals are going to be surrounding the management team and for Don Sweeney, his job will be the most difficult as it ever has been. These next three years will prove how good of a General Manager he is.

A lot of this will also come down to the players. Now is the time to prove yourself for that contract – big or small. If you want to remain a member of the Boston Bruins and skate on that TD Garden ice with the historic Spoked-B on your chest, this is your moment. No pressure.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 145 that we recorded on 9-15-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Boston Bruins Prospect Player Profile: Jack Studnicka

Boston Bruins Development Camp

(Photo Courtesy of David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Jack Studnicka was drafted in the second round, 53rd overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. The Winsdor, Ontario native was coming off a pretty good season the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) at the time of his selection. He was seen as a strong, and speedy two-way forward who could play the penalty-kill, power-play, and five-on-five. It’s easy to why Studnicka was drafted in the second round, now let’s dive into what he did leading up to and after he was selected 53rd overall.

The 2016-17 season was Studnicka’s second with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. The young forward was hoping to build his draft stock and he did just that. In 64 games with the Generals, he netted 18 goals and dished out 34 assists for 52 total points and a plus/minus of minus six. The Ontario native also seemed to turn it on when the lights were brightest in the playoffs. In the team’s 11 playoff games he netted five goals and dished out 10 assists for 15 total points and a plus/minus of minus one. It was an excellent season for Studnicka to build upon going forward.

The 2017-18 season was the young forward’s first since being drafted by Boston. Going into the season Oshawa would reward Studnicka’s play and leadership ability by putting the “C” on his sweater. The newly appointed Captain would reward the team’s decision and excel for the Generals. In 66 games he netted 22 goals while dishing out 50 assists for 72 total points and a plus/minus of 18. In Oshawa’s five playoff games he netted one goal and dished out four assists for five total points and a plus/minus of zero.

It was such a good season for Studnicka, that the team gave him his first taste of professional hockey. In five games with Providence, he netted one goal and dished out four assists for five total points and a plus/minus of two. It was an excellent season for the Ontario native, who proved to be one of the teams top prospects. He was able to show off not only his defensive awareness but also the soft hands that help fuel his scoring ability.

With the Bruins’ offensive depth in the system, the team decided to send Studnicka back to Oshawa for the 2018-19 season. Still appointed as the Generals’ Captain, the young forward would only play in the 30 games with Oshawa before being traded to the Niagra IceDogs. At the time of the trade, the Ontario native had played in 30 games with the Generals’ netting 12 goals and dishing out 22 assists for 34 total points and a plus/minus of 10.

The trade to the Niagra IceDogs seemed to light a fire under Studnicka. Dawning the “A” on his sweater, he would play in 30 games for Niagra netting 24 goals and dishing out 25 assists for 49 total points and a plus/minus of eight. This means for the entire season, Studnicka played in 60 games netting 36 goals and dishing out 47 assists for 83 total points and a plus/minus of 18. He would also play in Niagra’s 11 playoff games netting five goals and dishing out 6 assists for 11 total points and a plus/minus of four.

The young forward would also play in Providence’s four playoff games netting a goal and dishing out an assist for two total points and a plus/minus of two. It was an excellent 2018-19 campaign for Studnicka which really solidified his status as a top prospect in not only the Boston Bruins organization, but the entire NHL. His defensive awareness, speed and scoring ability make him a lethal forward. He is certain to be the Bruins’ lineup for many years to come.

This season will be an interesting one for Studnicka. He’s going to be given every opportunity to win a spot on Boston’s roster out of training camp. There are a few factors that will go into this decision. The first is how well he plays in training camp and the preseason games. The second is where do the Bruins envision him playing going forward. If he plays well enough at the center position, you could see the team move Charlie Coyle to the wing. The team might also value Studnicka more at the wing position and could play him there if they feel his offensive ability is too good to send down to Providence.

Ultimately I believe Studnicka will spend the beginning of the season in Providence but I believe he will end up getting called up to Boston mid-season. It’s easy to see why the Boston Bruins and fans alike are excited about this young forward. He could be a foundational top-six forward for the Bruins for the foreseeable future. I am excited to see how he plays in his first full professional season. I hope everyone enjoys the preseason because regular season hockey is right around the corner. Feel free to send me any questions or comments on Twitter, and as always GO, Bs, GO!

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Bruins F Charlie Coyle Will Have Big Role In 2019-20

NHL: MAY 09 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final - Hurricanes at Bruins

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHLPA.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

Boston has always had a close connection to forward Charlie Coyle, considering he was born just 16.7 miles south of Boston in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Similar to other young kids that live near an NHL city, Charlie always had a dream to play for the Bruins, in the TD Garden, in Boston, Massachusetts. In an article for the Player’s Tribune back in May, Coyle shared his thoughts when he heard of the trade that sent him to the B’s.

“Boston is in my blood. Boston raised me. This place is my home.” Coyle said, “Me on the Bruins? My hometown team? Playing next to guys like Zee and Bergy? Come on that’s like fairy-tale stuff.” – Charlie Coyle, Player’s Tribune

Coyle, drafted 28th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, was traded to the Minnesota Wild in the off-season of 2011 where he, Devin Setoguchi, and a 2011 1st Round Pick (Zack Phillips) were sent to San Jose in exchange for Brent Burns and a 2012 2nd Round Pick.

The trade allowed Coyle to make his National Hockey League debut in the 2012-13 campaign, skating in 37 games, putting up 8-6-14 numbers for his first NHL season. Over the course of the next seven seasons, Coyle played in a combined 479 games for the Wild, ending his tenure with 91-151-242 totals and an additional 15 points in 44 playoff games for the franchise. Coyle’s time with the Wild placed him in the top ten for games played, assists, and points in franchise history, cementing his name in Minnesota history books.

However, with the Wild on pace to miss the postseason for the first time in six seasons, management decided to part ways with Coyle, trading him to the Boston Bruins just days before the NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for prospect forward Ryan Donato and a conditional 2019 5th Round Pick.

The trade caught many Bruins off-guard, especially when they saw who they were sending back to Minnesota – forward Ryan Donato. Donato had been one of the most anticipated prospects to come into the organization and many fans had imagined him being a future top-six player as we now look at Pastrnak or DeBrusk. However, after a struggling season for the young forward, it was best for the Bruins to move away and get more of an experienced player in return.

Coyle came into the lineup and played in 21 regular season games, putting up 2-4-6 numbers and averaging just under 16 minutes per game. At this point, it seemed like the acquisition of Coyle was nothing too special, until the playoffs came around. In the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 27-year-old scored three goals and added an assist for four points in seven games – scoring the first of two empty-net goals in Game Seven.

“That Game 7 environment against the Leafs was just about the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Like Roman Coliseum s***, with thousands of people screaming for blood. There’s no better atmosphere in hockey, and that’s not up for debate.” – Charlie Coyle, Player’s Tribune

He was not done there. In Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Charlie Coyle stole the show on home-ice, scoring the game-tying goal with less than five minutes left in the third period to cause an uproar in the TD Garden. Not as loud, however, when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give Boston a 1-0 series lead.

Coyle finished the series against the Blue Jackets with 2-2-4 totals in six games, then went on to score four points in the four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals – including an impressive three-assist night in the 6-2 victory in Game Two. In the Stanley Cup Finals against the Blues, Charlie buried three goals and assisted on one goal to finish the best-of-seven series with four points. All in all, Coyle proved to be one of the most valuable players in Boston’s playoff run in 2018-19, ending the post-season with 9-7-16 numbers in 24 games.

Entering this upcoming campaign, the current role of Charlie Coyle is undecided by some, but for me, it makes clear sense where he should be playing – third line center. His success that he found throughout those playoffs were because of his third-line time with wingers Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson (who signed with the Sabres in the off-season). Coyle does a great job battling in the boards and during the post-season, he recorded 14 takeaways and only 9 giveaways – the type of ratio you want to see from your third-line center.

One concern for him playing in that position is his face-off percentage. Due to lack of regular season games, I once again go to his playoff numbers to tell the story. Coyle took a combined 257 face-offs, winning 122 of them, for a face-off win percentage of 47.5%. Although, that percentage is not too far off from second-line veteran, David Krejci, who had a 48.4% success rate on the face-off dot.

The alternative option would be to play Coyle on either the second-line right-wing, alongside David Krejci or on the first-line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with David Pastrnak playing on the second-line instead. With that said, it would only create another hole at third-line center, an important position. Also, Coyle and Heinen showed great chemistry and separating that forces the third-line to have brand new chemistry, which is not always in the best interest.

Oftentimes, when a player is traded to a contender at the Trade Deadline, he only has one year remaining on his current deal. It is a way for a team to make a strong push without constraining the cap for the next season. However, the Bruins were able to acquire Coyle with another year left on his contract. For the 2019-2020 season, Charlie Coyle will make $3.2 million – the final year of his five-year deal that he signed in 2014.

Now, with the opportunity to play a full season and post-season with the Boston Bruins, it is Charlie Coyle’s time to shine. Regardless of his exact position in the lineup, he will bring his very best to every single game and will play a big role, no matter where Head Coach Bruce Cassidy decides to play him. Boston is his home and he wants to make his home proud.

“I want to win a Cup for Boston and Weymouth — for all the great people from my town who’ve supported me every step of the way. And I want to win one for all my cousins back home who I know are going to be losing their minds as soon as that puck drops.” – Charlie Coyle before Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, Player’s Tribune 

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 144 that we recorded on 9-8-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel!

Do The Bruins Have Enough Coming Down The Middle?

( Photo Credit: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images )

By: Jack McCarthy  |  Follow Me On Twitter @73johnnymac

The Boston Bruins, via Team President Cam Neely, identified a top-six winger as a position of need heading into the summer of 2019 following a largely successful 2018-19 campaign in which they finished in a tie for second overall in the NHL standings and advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.  While the addition of a top-six winger clearly addresses a current need, should the Bruins be concerned with the long-term outlook at the center position?

The Boston Bruins have been blessed with a rock steady, 1-2 combination down the middle in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the better part of the last decade.  Whilst there has been a revolving door of pivots on the third and fourth lines over that time, the Bruins have been led by one of the leagues’ top 1-2 center-ice combinations providing them with consistent scoring, defensive prowess, and abundant leadership.

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Patrice Bergeron is a future Hockey Hall-of-Famer, all but confirmed with the recent selection of Guy Carbonneau to the Hall.  Long regarded as one of, if not the best two-way player in the game, Bergeron is coming off a career season in points production having amassed 79 points in just 65 games played.  He scored an equal-career high 32-goals as he topped the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.  He also garnered an eighth consecutive Selke Trophy nomination and finished third in voting behind winner Ryan O’Reilly and runner-up Mark Stone in a closely contested vote.  Bergeron has previously won the award in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

In David Krejci, the Bruins have a center who is also coming off a career season production-wise.  Krejci scored 73 points, equalling his previous career-high set all the way back in the 2008-09 season.   He hit the 20-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career.  Krejci also had 16 points in 24 playoff games during Boston’s Stanley Cup run.  Twice in his career, Krejci had led the NHL in playoff scoring, back in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup as well as in 2013 when they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final.  Krejci had a solid all-around season in 2018-19 finishing with a CF % (Corsi for) percentage of 55.98.  Bergeron, as a comparison, finished just slightly better at 56.77.

So we know that the Bruins have enjoyed a decade long luxury at the top of the center depth chart and for the most part have made things work with various options at the center depth positions.    There is a reality that the Bruins and their fans must start to consider here very quickly, however.  Both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are 33 years old.   In fact, Bergeron turns 34 this month.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Reality tells us that both of these career-long Bruins are well into the back nine of their respective careers.  The question for Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney is, what is the succession plan as the end approaches for Bergeron and Krejci?  It’s not something that Bruins fans like to contemplate, but these players won’t be here forever, and that endpoint is now beginning to approach.

If we look at the players’ respective contract statuses, Bergeron is under contract for three more seasons at $6.875M per season.  Krejci has two seasons remaining at $7.25M per season.  There has been much speculation that this off-season is the right time to move Krejci in a salary dump to provide cap relief.  There may be some merit to that argument as his trade value is likely as high as it is going to get.  With the possibility of diminishing returns and production next season, not many 33-year-olds have career-best seasons after-all, the trade Krejci argument is understandable.  On the other hand, if the Bruins believe they are still in a championship-contending window, and most of their fans believe they are, then trading David Krejci likely weakens your team, depending on the return, and puts you further from contending at a time that your two best forwards in Bergeron and winger Brad Marchand continue to progress into their thirties.   If winning now is still the priority, unless you can bring in a top-six center to replace David Krejci, I have to believe you need to keep him.

Getting back to the question of what happens in two and three years when their contracts expire and their play has inevitably tailed off, whom do the Bruins see as their top-six centers of the future?  Have they already acquired those pieces through the draft or via trade?  Or is this an area of need that, although not pressing, will reach out and bite the Bruins if they don’t begin to plan for it now.

Let’s consider the centers already within the organization and see if any project as a Bergeron or Krejci replacement.  For the purpose of this exercise, this will consider prospects whose rights the Bruins currently control, be it under contract or not.

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Beyond Bergeron and Krejci, the current third-line center in Boston is Charlie Coyle.  Coyle is coming off a successful playoff after being acquired in a trade deadline move from the Minnesota Wild.  Coyle has one year remaining on his current contract at a reasonable cap hit of $3.2M.    Bringing good size and skating, the 6’3”, 220-pound Coyle slots well into the third-line center position and has been touted as a possible solution at second-line right wing heading into next season.  Such a move would put further pressure on the Bruins to find in-house options to fill out their center depth positions.    For the time being he gives the Bruins what they need centering the third line but his long-term future in Boston may well be tied to the type of dollars and term he seeks on a new contract as he heads towards unrestricted free agency next summer.

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The Bruins appear set for the foreseeable future at the fourth line center position with Sean Kuraly.  Kuraly is a key bottom-six forward for the Bruins, and his absence was noticeable for the first four games of Boston’s opening-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Kuraly’s return from injury in game five sparked the Bruins and helped stabilize the line-up as they went on to eliminate the Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes.  Kuraly could be an option to play in the third line center position if required, but his perfect role in the Bruins lineup would appear to be a fourth-line pivot.

The Bruins also appear to boast several depth centermen who appear capable of playing in the bottom six.  Some of their current wingers can also play center including Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, and Karson Kuhlman.  None of these players are likely options to replace Bergeron or Krejci however.  The same applies to David Backes, a player who could fill a role as a center or a winger up or down the Bruins line-up but at this stage in his career, he doesn’t factor into the conversation at hand.

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The next place to look is at the Bruins current prospects who are yet to make an impact at the NHL level but maybe closer to earning that opportunity over the next couple of seasons.  The Bruins managed to get 15 regular-season games into Trent Frederic this past season.  While Frederic is still seeking his first NHL point, he may be the next Bruins prospect in line at the center position and will very likely see more NHL action in the 2019-20 season.    The question is how high in an NHL line-up does Frederic project?  While that remains to be seen, the common opinion seems to be that he projects to be a solid third-line center at the NHL level.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t help solve the issue of replacing Bergeron or Krejci in the top six.

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Jack Studnicka is coming off a successful junior career as a member of the Oshawa Generals and Niagara Ice Dogs.   This past season he scored 83 points in 60 regular-season games and represented Canada in the World Junior Championships where he tallied four points in five games played.  Studnicka has many upsides but again, his ceiling is difficult to project.   The 2017, second-round selection will benefit from the opportunity to develop at the AHL level in Providence but has the potential to grow and develop into an option to challenge for a top-six role one day at the NHL level.

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Boston’s most recent first-round draft pick, John Beecher, selected 30th overall from the US National Development Team in last month’s NHL Amateur Draft, may signal a recognition by the Bruins management that there is a need to address their lack of long-term options at the center position.  Beecher has tremendous size at 6-3” and 209 pounds and impressed onlookers with his speed and skating ability at the Bruins recent development camp.  Bruins fans shouldn’t get too giddy and hopeful of seeing Beecher in the black and gold anytime soon, however, as he has committed to play at Michigan this upcoming season and he should benefit greatly from playing in the NCAA ranks.    Beecher does, however, represent perhaps the glimmer of hope that the Bruins may have a bona fide center prospect who can play a meaningful and successful top-six role one day in the future.   Bruins fans have to temper the expectations on the 18-year-old Beecher however and realize he is likely at least a couple of years away and possibly more from a role in the NHL with the Bruins.

While there is hope that the Bruins may already have prospects that may one day fill the top six roles that have been held down for so long by Bergeron and Krejci, the reality may be that the Bruins may need to look outside their own organization to acquire at least one future top-six center, whether that be via free agency or trade.  It’s no secret that the Bruins’ depth strength is on the back end.  The Bruins may be best served by utilizing their depth on the back end to address their need at center.  This does not have to happen immediately.  The smart play, however, would be to have replacements ready to assume those roles once their existing contracts expire.  The reality is that Bergeron and Krejci can’t play forever, however, and the Bruins need to improve their organizational depth at the center position in order to be prepared for that inevitable day when they are no longer contributing at the level we have been accustomed to for such a long time.

How Last Season’s Deadline Changes Sweeney’s Approach?​

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( Photo credit: Steven Senne / Associated Press )

By: Ian Frazier | Follow me on Twitter @ifrazier95

As most Bruins fans know, the deadline for NHL season is always an interesting time for the black and gold. Many players have been traded for and never panned out like Andrej Meszároš or the infamous Zach Rinaldo, both of which were quick experiments that failed to deliver any results. As more trade deadlines came and went, Bruins fans started to wonder if there was a repeated pattern of trading for non-impact level players as well as swinging and missing out on some bigger names they have been linked to.

During the 2019 season, however, that all changed. During the week of the trade deadline at the end of February, the Bruins traded prospect Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild for Charlie Coyle, a player who hasn’t really lived up to his potential in Minnesota. Many Bruins fans at the time questioned the move as they seemed to surround themselves in the hype that was Ryan Donato. They ultimately in the short term were proven right as Donato would go on a mini point streak with the Wild and Charlie Coyle looked invisible on the ice.

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Then on deadline day, the Bruins acquired Marcus Johansson from the New Jersey Devils for a second-round pick in the 2019 draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft. Many Bruins fans were puzzled with this one as many saw that JoJo (Johansson’s nickname) was injury prone and also was on the receiving end of a controversial hit involving Brad Marchand earlier in the season that sidelined him for a while. After playing a couple games with the Bruins, JoJo got hurt and was sidelined again for a bit which left fans wondering was giving up two draft picks at the time worth it for what possibly was going to be a rental?

As the Bruins punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs, they were eager to go on a deep run with this core and believed they had the depth to do it. All of a sudden, Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson were a dynamic duo helping the Bruins redefine their offensive attack with a now solid third line! As the playoffs rolled along, the two additions quickly became fan favorites as they contributed to most of the team’s scoring output when the top line had a bad night or a bad shift. Head coach Bruce Cassidy finally had multiple lines up and down the roster that he could roll out and go on a deep run with and that’s exactly what the Bruins did.

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While the Bruins didn’t capture the ultimate prize at the end, the trades of Coyle and Johansson provided a much-needed jolt of offense that was critical to reaching game seven of the Stanley Cup final. Knowing how well their trades worked and how far the Bruins went general manager, Don Sweeney has to be feeling pretty good knowing he traded for a rental that brought them within sixty minutes of a title and a nice depth piece in Coyle who is versatile and still under contract for the 2019-2020 season. Sweeney always has the team’s best interest in mind and would be willing to stand pat or make trades as needed to improve the lineup. Knowing Sweeney struck gold at this past trade deadline as well as being awarded GM of the year, expect Sweeney to enter next season’s trade deadline with a different attitude which maybe could land the next big thing in Boston, who knows?

Report: Johansson Not In Talks With Bruins Ahead Of Free Agency

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

At the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was optimistic that he would come to terms with Marcus Johansson and his representation on a deal. Up until late last week, the Bruins were still in the mix along with a handful of other teams. However, it is now being reported by Darren Dreger of TSN that 10 or more teams are in contact with the 28-year-old forward from Sweden and the Bruins are not one of those teams.

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Johansson will become an unrestricted free agent on July first as the NHL Free Agency frenzy begins after the Bruins acquired Johansson from the New Jersey Devils on trade deadline day for a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 fourth-round pick.

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He will likely get a raise on his $4.6 million that he received last season and with the Bruins cap situation they just simply cannot afford to pay Johansson. Johansson praised the city of Boston and the Bruins organization and expressed interest in re-signing but will likely be wearing another sweater in the 2019-2020 season.

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His tenure with Boston got off to a rough start. On March 5, 2019, Johansson was injured in just his fourth game with the Bruins. He was hospitalized after a collision with Carolina Hurricanes forward Michael Ferland and later diagnosed with a lung contusion. He went on to miss 10 games in March for the Bruins after the injury.

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During his brief time in Boston, Johansson put up one goal and two assists in 10 regular season games played. But, his impact was really felt in the postseason. Johansson quickly built chemistry with B’s forward Charlie Coyle on the third line for Bruce Cassidy. In 22 playoff games, Johansson scored four goals to go along with seven helpers and 11 points and scored some huge goals for Boston like his insurance marker in the first period of game seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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He also connected with Charlie Coyle with incredible passes on the tying and overtime game-winning goals in game one of the second round series against Columbus. The line of Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Marcus Johansson were often the Bruins most effective line during the long Stanley Cup run. With the “perfection-line” and the David Krejci line often struggling to find the back of the net, the Johansson line was productive in their forecheck and goal-scoring and he will definitely be missed by the Bruins next season.

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As a result, Don Sweeney’s search for wingers continues heading into Free Agency on Monday and the rest of the offseason. Sweeney will certainly be busy as the Bruins have a number of UFA’s and RFA’s that they will try to come to terms with before the start of next season.

Sweeney has extending qualifying offers to restricted free agents Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Peter Cehlarik, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson as well as extending offers to pending unrestricted free agent Noel Acciari and a 2-year extension for defenseman Steven Kampfer.

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July first is always an interesting and exciting day in the NHL so follow along with our Black ‘N Gold Hockey team for all the latest free agency news.

Check out last weeks Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 133 below!

Bruins’ Sweeney Named GM Of The Year

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Photo Courtesy Of The Boston Herald

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney won General Manager of the Year on Wednesday night in Las Vegas during the NHL Awards ceremony. Sweeney beat out Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell and Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong for the honor, becoming the first Bruin to win the award since its inception in 2010. Since Sweeney took over as the General Manager in 2015, the B’s have compiled a record of 143-75-28 which ranks third in wins and points in the entire league over that span. Sweeney has been a part of the Bruins front office since 2006.

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Sweeney oversaw the construction of a squad that finished in second place in the Eastern Conference and tied for second in the entire league in 2018-19. The Bruins compiled a record of 49-24-9 this past season and advanced to the Conference Final for the eight time since the round was introduced in 1982. The Bruins also clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the last decade and first since 2013. Despite the Bruins losing over 250 man games this season due to injury, Sweeney was able to make the right moves to keep the team near the top of the league standings almost all year.

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His trade deadline acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson proved to be two of his best moves as General Manager as both players were outstanding during the B’s long playoff run. Coyle totaled nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in the playoffs after posting just two goals and four assists for six points in 21 regular season games. Johansson posted just one goal and two assists for three points in ten games in the regular season and then exploded for four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 22 playoff games.

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Sweeney was incredibly thankful for the award and credited the Bruins organization, “I really believe this is an acknowledgement of the Boston Bruins organization,” he said. “I was very fortunate that Mr. Jacobs, Charlie, and Cam gave me this opportunity. And the incredible, devoted coaches and players, people I get to work with every day should share this as well.”

Sweeney also credited his twin boys, Jared and Tyler as inspirations for the award. “From the time they were born at one pound and six ounces,” he said, harkening back long ago to the anxious days of their birth. “But most importantly, to my beautiful wife, she has been the rock of our family. She has selflessly supported all of my career aspirations and I share this with her tonight as the special person she is.”

Sweeney’s work this season was incredibly solid and while he did make a few moves that were head scratching to some people, those moves ultimately worked out. The signings of Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom last July turned out to be some of his better free agent signings in recent years. The addition of Jaroslav Halak was very helpful as he was able to play effectively enough to allow Tuukka Rask to stay fresh for the long playoff run. The additions of college free agents Connor Clifton and Karson Kuhlman proved to be very good moves especially in the playoffs as the two of them played very significant roles. We will see this offseason if Sweeney can pull off any more shrewd moves to get this team to bring some hardware back to Boston next June.

Bruins Post-Game Recap: SCF Game 4: Boston at St. Louis: 6/3/19

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(Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Home: St. Louis Blues

Away: Boston Bruins

Boston’s Lineup

Forwards

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Backes

Johansson – Coyle – Heinen

Nordstrom – Kuraly – Acciari

Defense

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Moore – Clifton

Goalies

Rask

Halak

St Louis’s Lineup

Forwards

Schwartz – Schenn – Tarasenko

Sanford – O’Reilly – Perron

Blais – Bozak – Maroon

Barbashev – Sundqvist – Steen

Defense

Edmundson – Pietrangelo

Bouwmeester –  Parayko

Dunn –  Gunnarsson

Goalies

Binnington

Allen

First Period

The goal scoring started really early, 43 seconds in off of a wraparound from Ryan O’Reilly. Tuukka Rask made the initial save on a point shot from Vince Dunn, but O’Reilly buried the quick wraparound very shortly after. The Bruins were forced to battle some early momentum from St. Louis from the get-go. Just what the Blues wanted.

The Blues continued to push the pace after scoring the first goal, outshooting the Bruins 7-3 through the first 6:53 and outhitting them 11-5. After that, the Bruins made some headway in terms of creating offense, but struggled with finding puck luck.

That all changed when Charlie Coyle got on the board for the ninth time in the playoffs. Danton Heinen took a hit to make a play and Coyle’s chance initially came off of a Zdeno Chara shot, before potting his own rebound. Chara’s assist was his fourth. It was 1-1 with 6:46 to go, goals in three straight games for Coyle.

Vladimir Tarasenko got lost in coverage and scored to take back the lead for the Blues with 13:14 left in the period. Tarasenko is the last person on the Blues you want to have a golden opportunity to score.

The Blues controlled play for much of the period, and also laid some pretty solid hits, which was a big reason as to why they were succeeding. They were the better team in the first period. Two big advantages for St. Louis in the first came in shots at 13-9 and in hits at 24-16.

Score: 2-1 St. Louis

Second Period

Things were fairly standard early until Chara had a Brayden Schenn shot deflect up and off of his face, bloodying the Bruins captain and forcing him to get repairs.

The first penalty of the game came 5:47 into the period when Coyle high-sticked Carl Gunnarsson. The Bruins killed off the penalty without one of their main penalty killers in Chara.

A Bruins power play came shortly after thanks to a delay of game penalty on Colton Parayko. The Bruins had a massive opportunity to tie the game, but they did not convert and the Blues held their one-goal lead.

Connor Clifton went to the box for an illegal check to the head of Tarasenko after a lengthy stint of offensive zone time for St. Louis. But who else but Brandon Carlo to tie the game with a shorthanded goal with 5:41 left? Carlo’s first career Stanley Cup playoff goal was assisted. Patrice Bergeron (8) and Brad Marchand (13) has the assists. The goal made Carlo the 20th Bruin to score a playoff goal this season. That’s a franchise record.

It was not a perfect period for the Bruins, but Carlo’s late shorthanded goal was massive. The Bruins took the hit advantage this time, 13-8, but the Blues held the shot advantage, 12-10. After two, shots were 25-19, hits were 32-29, both in favor of the Blues. Chara did not return to game action after taking a puck up high. The Bruins needed to feed off of the energy from the Carlo goal into the third period.

Score: 2-2

Third Period

Good news for the Bruins came in the form of Zdeno Chara’s return, with a fishbowl on his helmet. Bad news came in the form of a Danton Heinen tripping penalty just 2:08 into the period. Rask made a series of huge saves on the penalty kill, helping the Bruins kill it off. Through four and a half minutes and after the Heinen penalty was killed, the Bruins held a 13-3 advantage in blocked shots.

Coyle drew a high sticking penalty with 13:18 remaining to give the Bruins their second power play of the game. Up to this point, Chara remained on the bench for the whole period. Not a whole lot of cohesiveness came on the power play, and as a result, the Bruins failed to score.

Oskar Sundqvist has certainly made some noise in different ways in this series. That’s one way to put it. David Backes decided to flatten him.

O’Reilly added to his monster performance in this game, and he got rewarded for it when he quickly buried a rebound. Poor coverage in front of the net did not help Rask after a tough shot to contain up high and O’Reilly found an open spot in the chaos. Not too long after, Rask made a big stop on Patrick Maroon on a 2-on-1. St. Louis remained ahead by a goal with 8:44 to go. Shots to this point in the period were 9-3 in favor of St. Louis.

Things were pretty bad for the Bruins for the remainder of the third. Not a lot of cohesiveness and a bad turnover by Clifton that led to Schenn’s empty-net goal. The Schenn goal came with 1:29, 4-2 St. Louis. With 25.7 seconds remaining, Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug went off following a scrum. Another scrum happened at the buzzer. Chara went the whole third period without a shift, he was there to rally his troops.

Next up is game five in Boston on Thursday at 8 PM ET. The shots were 13-4 in favor of St. Louis and the hits were even at 12. ST. Louis clawed their way back into the series with force. A pivotal game five awaits.

Final Score: 4-2 St. Louis

Three Hometown Heroes Looking To Etch Permanent Place In Bruins History

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins

Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

By Carrie Salls | Look for me on Twitter @nittgrl73

If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year, Matt Grzelcyk, Chris Wagner and Charlie Coyle will be the first Massachusetts-born Bruins to have their names inscribed on the coveted hardware since Myles Lane did so in 1929.

Regardless of the outcome of this year’s Cup quest, the three current hometown heroes appear to have already cemented their spots in Boston sports lore. Charlestown, Mass.-native Grzelcyk has been a Bruin the longest of the three, having been drafted by Boston. Wagner, dubbed by teammates as “the Mayor of Walpole,” was signed by the Bruins as a free agent in the summer of 2018, and E. Weymouth’s Coyle was acquired just before the trade deadline in February in a deal that sent Bruins prospect, and another Boston native, Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild.

During the regular season, Wagner thrilled fans with his hard-nosed, tough play on a fourth-line that has come up big for the Bs time and again throughout the 2018-2019 campaign. He was rewarded for his efforts when the fans voted him as the recipient of the 7th Player Award at the end of the season.

Wagner was forced to leave game-three of the Eastern Conference Finals after suffering an apparent arm injury on a pivotal shot-block. He has yet to appear in a Cup finals game. His spot has been occupied by Noel Acciari, a native of Johnston, R.I.

During Wednesday’s game, Grzelcyk was hit from behind when retrieving a puck, sending his head into the boards, and he had to be helped off the ice by teammates. Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed Thursday that Grzelcyk has been placed in concussion protocol and is officially listed as day-to-day.

Grzelcyk has been lauded by fans and the coaching staff for his toughness and strong performance throughout the playoff run. His best game was highlighted by two goals scored in a Mother’s Day matinee during the ECF.

Coyle has made his presence known on the ice since the playoffs began, as well. His primary contribution has come with healthy points production throughout the post-season.

Although more National Hockey League players still hale from Canada than any other country on the planet, statistics provided by quanthockey.com show that America is closing the nationality gap long-dominated by its neighbor to the north. A total of 435 active players on NHL rosters are Canadian, according to those statistics, followed by 286 Americans.

The Boston Bruins’ current roster is no exception to that trend, as 14 active players are Americans. In fact, only four members of the current Bruins squad are Canadian-born.

In addition, five members of the so-called “Black Aces,” a small group of prospects and players who spent the majority of the season playing for the team’s AHL affiliate in Providence and have been practicing with the NHL club during the deep playoff run, also were born in the United States. Among the Black Aces, Paul Carey, Trent Frederic, Lee Stempniak, Kyle Keyser, and Zane McIntyre were born in the United States.

In addition to Grzelcyk, Wagner, Coyle, and Acciari, U.S.-born Bruins who have appeared in 2019 playoff games include David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, Sean Kuraly, Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore. Injured defenseman Kevan Miller, who played college hockey at the University of Vermont, is also American.

Miller and Acciari are not the only current Bruins to have played college hockey in New England. Coyle, Grzelcyk, and McAvoy all attended Boston University. Bruins assistant coaches Jay Pandolfo, and Joe Sacco also played at BU.